Kosei Inoue: The Lure of Group Competition and Spreading Judo Goodwill

Japan Racing Association

Hello fellow readers of JAPAN Striker.

We are now at the end of July and schools in Japan are about to start summer vacation.

As for what happened on the world judo scene, last month marked the start of the period of qualifying events to choose the athletes who will compete in the Paris Summer Olympics in 2024. As a result, the judokas competed fiercely in various places. around the world.

This is certainly true in Japan where several major tournaments have all attracted large numbers of participants. These events are designed to give judo players a chance to gain tournament experience while honing their competitive skills.

NPO JUDOs, an organization for which I am president, has been very active since before the start of the summer, especially with regard to one of our special projects for the taking of judo uniforms (judogi) from Japan to various foreign countries.

Since international distribution channels have been slowed due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has become difficult to carry out our core business of sending uniforms. recycled judo and judo tatami all the way to judo enthusiasts living abroad. In order to deal with this situation, we have decided to ask people traveling abroad to bring judo uniforms with them.

Create new opportunities abroad

The first case worth commemorating involved a delivery to a judo club in Poland. The beneficiaries were Ukrainian refugees in that country. Since we learned that refugees were attending the judo club, we were eager to provide the judo outfits, especially for the children.

So we asked Mr. Takeo Akutsu, who was traveling to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees, to take 43 judo outfits with him on his trip. These judogi filled two large cardboard boxes, weighing a total of about 50 kilograms. His one-man operation proved to be a remarkable accomplishment.

This success motivated us to implement the project seriously. And later deliveries of judo uniforms were made to judo groups in Denmark and France. As in the case of Poland, the beneficiaries were Ukrainian refugees.

Since we are here in Japan, far from where most refugees live, we are limited in what we can do. But if we can do our part to help those unfortunate people who have fled the fires of war find even a little pleasure in practicing judo, we would like to continue doing what we can.

The lure of team competition

On another subject, I would like to tell you about the Japan University Judo Championship Tournament, which was held on June 25 and 26 at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo.

This is the tournament where university students compete to see who is the best in Japan. There are seven members per team for men and five or three per team for women.

In the men’s competition, which has no weight divisions, the seven members of each team fight to accumulate points, and the respective teams are free to choose their rosters for matches.

This means that no one knows until just before the start of each match which judoka will be competing. Nor does anyone know in advance in what order they will step onto the mat.

On top of that, the different teams are strategizing to try and take advantage of the weight differences. Moreover, in team competition, major reversals of fortune are not uncommon. The appeal of team competition is therefore totally different from that of individual competition.

All-Japan Tag Team Competition in 2022

This year, the tag team title fight was between Tokai University and Kokushikan University. The final competition was even dead and had to be decided by a playoff game. Head-to-head in the playoffs were Tokai University’s Sanshiro Murao and Kokushikan University’s Tatsuru Saito, the chosen representatives of their respective teams.

Their match turned into an epic struggle lasting 16 minutes and 18 seconds, at the end of which Tokai University walked away with the crown.

Before the start of the match, Murao seemed to be at a distinct physical disadvantage as he is 180 centimeters tall and weighs 95 kilograms. In contrast, his opponent, Saito, is 191 centimeters tall and weighs 170 kilograms. However, Murao managed to turn the tables on the bigger man with flying colors.

Murao prevented Saito from getting a firm grip on his judogi as he wanted, and with cool judgment and application of technique, he held his ground. Eventually, the stamina he had gained through hard training and his burning desire to deliver for his team allowed him to claim victory.

Skilled techniques, fighting spirit, surprising result

Murao’s triumph embodied the martial arts ideal that “the small overcomes the great”. From my perspective, the match between Murao and Saito sums up the appeal of tag team competition without weight divisions.

Although Saito lost, he also deserves praise as he showed splendid fighting spirit in the match despite his injury. Murao and Saito promise to be mainstays of the Japanese judo world in the days to come, and it will be a great pleasure to see their future growth.

A team competition like this attracts in many ways that are different from individual matches. I myself had the experience of participating in many team competitions when I was in high school and university. I personally learned a lot from them and would love to work to make a lot more people realize how interesting group competition can be.

Kosei Inoue, who now holds senior positions at the Japan Judo Federation, is the former national coach of Japan’s men’s judo team and former Olympic and World Judo Champion and President of NPO Judos. Find his previous articles on JAPAN Forward here. Additional information about NPO JUDOs can be found on this link.

(Read the message in Japanese at this link.)

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